Chelsea’s new strategy of acquiring new talents at a very young age continues with the latest being Angelo Gabriel, another product of the eternal talent producing factory, Santos.
The transfer strategy in acquiring Andrey Santos and Cesare Casadei looked very bold at the time but after the FIFA U-20 World Cup tournament it has proved to be a very forward-looking move. By the time other teams had realized the great talent these two players possess, there was little that they could do as Chelsea had already snapped the Best Player Of The Tournament & the Golden Ball winner Cesare Casadei and Andrey Santos who scored two to help his nation go to a quarter-final where they lost in extra time.
So continuing this strategy Chelsea have gone for another forward in Angelo Gabriel. Angelo, a talented winger who rose quickly through Santos’ ranks, is far ahead of schedule despite not always finding the journey smooth. But now that it has been three years since his first-team debut, he feels prepared to follow in the footsteps of famous Santos products like Neymar, Rodrygo, and Alex Sandro by traveling over the Atlantic to establish a career in Europe.
FC Barcelona were said to be looking into getting him along with their big acquisition of Vitor Roque but the Blues quickly moved to sign on a €15 million (£13m/$16m). L’Équipe has also now claimed that after signing for Chelsea he will get his first taste of European football in France with Todd Boehly’s majority owned RC Strasbourg.
Angelo was raised in the suburb of Samambaia, which his father Elismar has compared to a “favela,” and was born in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia in 2004. Early on, his exceptional dribbling skills and quickness in possession were noticed, and he was enrolled in the Meninos da Vila school in his hometown, which is affiliated with Santos. Despite interest from other top Brazilian clubs, he eventually joined the club’s academy, and his parents were able to relocate 1,112 kilometers away to Santos.
Angelo’s former teacher and first coach, Betinho, told Correio Brasiliense,
“In the first training session, we noticed that he had a lot of skill and above average speed. The following year, we presented him to Santos for tests in the basic categories, and he passed quickly. He was fast and skilled, an irreverent player with a lot of technical and attacking quality.”
After joining Santos, Angelo quickly rose up the youth ranks and the club felt that it was time for Angelo to start for their first team. The attacker made his professional debut against Fluminense at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro at the tender age of 15 years and 308 days, becoming the second youngest player to debut for the club behind Coutinho. (Even Neymar did not make his first team until the age of 17!)
HOW DID HE FAIR AT SANTOS?
After this amazing start, Angelo Gabriel’s stock hasn’t risen to the levels of Neymar, Vini Jr. or even Rodrygo for that matter. He has a modest return of five goals and 10 assists in 129 appearances but statistics alone cannot tell you the entire story. His coach Odair Hellmann has rightfully come out and defended the young player saying,
“He’s a promising, talented player, that’s undeniable, but he’s suffering from this pressure. He is 18 years old… We worship because a 16-year-old boy comes out, we put him on a pedestal, but later on, we start to visualise the difficulties, the situations that we need to evolve. And now is not the time to step on his head. It is time for us to visualise the difficulty he is having.”
Even through the difficulty he has managed to hit the back of the net on important occasions, when he scored against San Lorenzo in a Copa Libertadores becoming the youngest scorer in the history of the competition.
Angelo Gabriel: STYLE OF PLAY
Angelo’s game is built on his raw pace and his ability to get away from his opposition number and every time you see him in action you are made to remember that part of his game. His control over the ball and the ability of not surrendering the ball is an amazing trait to have and we tend to see with attackers coming out of Brazil, he possesses the Samba gene in him to make fans in the stadium lose their minds. After 129 professional appearances, he is built for a physical league, especially after playing so much of his football in the South American country.
Although Angelo looks up to his fellow countryman Neymar, it is their bitter rivals’ Argentina’s star player Angel Di Maria, that he profiles very similarly with especially when he played for SL Benfica and Real Madrid. Both like to start off from the right-wing, cut inside, trick their opposition number into committing an error and then capitalize on those errors to create opportunities for their teammates or score one if the route is open for them.
But all those comparisons are not doing any favors for the youngster. His productivity in front of goal has recently come into very heavy criticism. He has also often displayed indecisiveness, sometimes choosing to carry on dribbling rather than pick a pass in the attacking third. His coach has also come out and talked about his improving his end product,
“Does he have a part of his aspect to evolve, the finishing part, to finish the play? Yes, just as many other players do. But he is a young man who is in search of this evolution, he is training and working for this, he is doing specific work to evolve in this aspect.”
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR HIM?
Although it is not very sure on what the next stage of development would be for the youngster, a loan move would be very advisable. He needs to have a clear path of progress which eventually leads to him starting out in a blue kit at Stamford Bridge. As for now he is expected to complete a medical. His coach believes there is a lot more from this young player to come by so watch out for this space,
“Sometimes in life and in his career, only praise comes, only good things come, only the cool moment comes. But there are also moments that we go through in the career of doubt and then we need to strengthen ourselves, we strengthen him and he also strengthens himself with his personality and moves forward with an open chest, strong, but seeking this evolution. And he has all the trust from me, from the group and he will evolve.”